The impression was created by the EU and the British Remain campaign that if the UK leaves the EU it couldn’t continue to trade with Europe and its citizens would be banned from Europe.
In reality it means the UK can’t trade tariff free and individuals would have to apply for visas to take up residence in Europe. In other words exactly the same as we deal with the rest of the world. It’s the rest of the world where we do more trade, also more UK citizens move to the rest of the world than move to Europe. This is not a big cost for reduced payments into the EU, which is worth billions of pounds annually, and to take control of our borders and economy.
There are 3 aspects to our relationship with the EU.
1. First, our contribution to the EU and the payments from the EU to the UK
2. Trading between the EU and the UK
3. EU migrants.
On our contribution, a simple and quick solution would be for the UK to make the payments which are already in play from the EU to the UK and stop paying the UK contribution to the EU. This could be phased over time with the EU paying them all now and we pay them say 20% to cover the costs of administrating the payments. This will still cost a lot less than our current contribution. Since the UK will be saving significantly here and the EU losing it we could afford to be more generous for example paying higher fees and keeping them in place for longer than is needed.
On trade, we simply keep the current tariffs with other countries which apply now IE those negotiated by the EU. These can be renegotiated over time. The new tariffs we will need with the EU could be the ones currently applying between the EU and the USA. It’s worth pointing out that since we import more from the EU than we export to it these tariffs will help the UK. Again we can afford to be generous and continue with no tariffs as now. The choice being for the EU.
With immigrants I would say that all EU citizens in residence here before the 23rd of June can stay providing someone in the family is in work and supporting the family. Over time they either become UK citizens or apply for work visas. This can take anything up to 5 years or even longer because we know immigration will start to come under our control.
I think we can improve the lot of British citizens and still afford to be generous on our departure from the EU. This should make the negotiations none contentious and remember the EU will have a lot of other problems on its plate which will be difficult to sort out. Making them easy to accept makes it better for everyone.
John Elliott is Chairman of Ebac, manufacturers of a growing range of electrical products for the home, based in North East England.